A Sermon preached at the Mint Methodist Church,
Exeter, by the Minister, Rev Andrew Sails
Above: Christ the King Above right: Prince James Francis Edward Stuart 1688 - 1766
Jn 18:36 “My Kingdom is not of this world”
Today’s Gospel reading involves a conversation between
Pilate and Jesus
about whether or not Jesus claims the authority of a King.
Jesus effectively says to Pilate,
“If you want to use a word like “king” I can go along with that -
but you need to understand kingship in my way -
“My Kingdom isn’t like the Roman Empire – it is not of this world”
What does Jesus mean by this?
Many people have interpreted “not of this world” as
that Christ’s Kingdom is purely other worldly and spiritual –
nothing to do with everyday political and social life.
That is very convenient if you want to separate religion from the rest of your life –
but it isn’t the way the Bible sees things.
Even a cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount,
the Lord’s Prayer or the Magnificat
makes you realize that God’s Kingdom is about everyday life,
beginning here and now -
The kingdom of God that Jesus
announced and embodied
isn’t just about pie in the sky when you die, or one hour a week in Church.
It is what life would be like on
earth, here and now,
if God were king and the rulers of this world were not …
Imagine if God ruled the nations, and not Blair, Bush, Putin, or Kim or Roh…
“Every aspect of personal and communal life would be turned upside down
- peace-making instead of war mongering, liberation not exploitation,
sacrifice rather than subjugation, mercy not vengeance,
care for the vulnerable instead of privileges for the powerful,
generosity instead of greed, humility rather than pride,
embrace rather than exclusion, etc. ….”
Christians we have dual citizenship –
we are citizens of this coming Kingdom of Christ –
but in the meantime we are also citizens
of the flawed and corrupt Kingdoms and Republics of this world.
Somehow we have to hold the two together.
Scotland was split between
supporters of the Protestant House of Hanover ruling from London,
and the Catholic House of Stuart in exile in France.
Admitting support for the exiled Stuart cause could be dangerous.
A very public test came at the dinner table
every time someone proposed a toast to the King – that is King George.
So, when supporters of Stuart Bonnie Prince Charlie
were called to raise their glasses in a toast to the King,
they carefully raised their glass of wine in a vertical line
directly over their water glass or finger bowl –
So the loyal toast “The King” was transformed into
the quite different and seditious toast “The King Over the Water” –
referring to the Stuart pretenders in exile.
As Christians we find ourselves seeking to hold together
our place within the current power system
and our hopes and dreams and commitment to another King –
the King of heaven.
Anyone who pays taxes and obeys stop signs
recognizes the authority of our always flawed political and national rulers –
and Scripture supports us in doing that.
And yet as Christians we are also called to loyalty to
the Risen Christ -
not merely the King over the water,
but the King of Kings ascended to Heaven over all.
says “Render unto Caesar that which is
and unto God what is God’s”
The key thing is to remember that our allegiance to Caesar is conditional,
our allegiance to God ultimate and overriding.
And we believe that God’s Kingdom will ultimately prevail
I am reminded of George Macleod, founder of the Iona
speaking in the early days of the Cold War,
when hostile posturing was striking fear into the hearts of many.
Don’t forget, said Macleod,
“that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords
(or – to make the title sound a little more like what it first sounded –
King of Truman and Lord of Stalin).”
(Ronald Fergusson, George Macleod, Collins 1990, p.249)
The news this week about James Bond style
assassinations in sushi bars may be chilling –
But you read stories like that in a different way if
(to follow Macleod’s translation of 50 years ago)
we really really believe and know that the Lord we follow
is indeed King of Bush and Lord of Putin.
doesn’t mean that we will not be called to suffer and struggle –
but it does mean that ultimately, beyond the grave if not before,
even defeat, every pain, every tear,
(even the worst terrorist atrocity we can imagine),
will be seen in context, as we see the Lamb upon the throne.
we are called to live our lives caught between two kingdoms -
paying our taxes and stopping at the red light –
up to the point at which it compromises our loyalty to the King of Kings
sometimes mean huge sacrifices
in the context of the great dilemmas of the day
(conscientious objection, resigning my job)
each great sacrifice there are a million occasions
when we honour the King of Heaven in small ways.
Let me give what may seem a very trivial example -
American Newspaper Columnist Sydney Harris
once wrote about walking with a friend
to the corner news-stand to buy the evening paper.
The friend greeted the newsman very courteously,
but in return received gruff and discourteous service.
The paper was rudely shoved in his direction,
but Harris’ friend politely smiled
and wished the newsman a pleasant week-end.
As the two friends were walking home, Harris asked;
“Does he always treat you so rudely?
“Yes, unfortunately, he does”, his friend replied.
“And are you always so polite and friendly to him?” “Yes I am.”
“How come you are so nice to him when he is so unfriendly to you?”
“Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act.?”
small incident – and yet encapsulated in it
is an acceptance of the way of the Kingdom of love and compassion
which will not allow the power of selfishness and intolerance of others
to rule the situation:
“Why should I allow him to decide how I’m going to act?” –
It is a
small but powerful statement that I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven
and my loyalty to that Kingdom (not the forces of darkness)
will be decisive and determine how I act and indeed who I am,
There is a lot of talk at the moment about whether
should be allowed to wear crosses to work –
and we are not here talking fashion accessories –
we are talking about a symbol of
the Christian’s ultimate loyalty to another Kingdom.
are many ways of showing your faith
and commitment to the King of Heaven –
to wear the cross is a good way –
but to carry the cross - in love and service and humility –
that is an even better way to show our loyalty
to that other Kingdom which is to come.
all think how we speak to the Newspaper vendor;
how we wear or carry the cross, -
for in such ways do we live as ambassadors
of God’s Heavenly Kingdom here on earth.
Here is one final quotation – from Daniel Berrigan,
a Jesuit Priest, who has spent his life
speaking and acting for the Kingdom –
even when that has meant going to prison
for civil disobedience against government policies
on racism, nuclear arms, and most famously Vietnam
This is his Credo:
“I can only
tell you what I believe; I believe:
I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by the sexual revolution.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be saved by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican, nor by the World Buddhist Association,
nor by Hitler, nor by Joan of Arc,
nor by angels and archangels, nor by powers and dominions,
I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.”
says is true for every age and place -
we cannot be saved by George II nor Butcher Cumberland
nor even Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye –
Nor can we be saved by Tony Blair
nor David Cameron
nor George Bush over another sea.
We can only be saved by Jesus Christ
As we drink wine at his table,
may this be a moment when we reaffirm where our ultimate loyalty lies,
and commit ourselves afresh to the service of the King of Kings.
ORDER OF SERVICE
Hymn HAP 28 “O Worship the King”
Revelation 1:4b-8 (a paraphrase by Nathan Nettleton)
John 18:33-37 (p.1087)
Hymn SOF 544 “There is a Redeemer”
Sermon: “King over the Water”
74 “At the name of Jesus” (Tune 74ii Camberwell)
[During this hymn the collection will be taken]
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer
[Young people join from their sessions]
Hymn “Spirit of God” (Tune: Skye Boat Song”)
[accompanied by the Mint Orchestra].
[During this hymn the offertory is brought forward]
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Minister: It is indeed right
to give you our thanks and praise,
O God, for you are the One who was, and is, and is to come, and you reign over all from beginning to end.
You created the earth and its inhabitants. When your chosen rulers and their people failed you, you sent your child, Jesus Christ, into the world, the Prince of Peace. Though he was accused of treason before Pilate and executed by his own nation, he was raised by your power. You gave him glory and dominion forever, and he rules over all with an authority that comes, not from this world ,but from you, our God and our Rock. Therefore we join with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven as we proclaim:
People: Holy, holy, holy
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Minister: On the night he was
betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, he gave thanks, broke it and gave it to
his disciples saying “Take, eat, this is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup; he gave
thanks and gave it to them saying:
“Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new Covenant which is
poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
So we obey our Lord’s command: we offer bread and wine, we offer ourselves, to be used for the work of your Kingdom. Send down the spirit of life and power, glory and love, upon these people, upon this bread and wine, that to us they may be his body and his blood.
[The congregation is seated]
[All are invited to receive bread and wine. Please come forward when the Steward beckons your row. Please move to the first available space at the rail, starting from the centre and moving out. When you have received bread and wine, please return to your seat via the side aisle.]
All: We thank you Lord, that you have fed us in this sacrament, united us with Christ, and given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all people. Amen.
Hymn 378 “Be thou my vision”
[accompanied by the Mint orchestra]
Prayers are adapted
from Nathan Nettleton,
©2003 Nathan Nettleton www.laughingbird.net